Securing Azure Web Apps – Private Endpoint

As all Azure web applications are directly available over Internet, hence public, most of the times I need to have some form of protection for them, like an Web Application Firewall. And in Azure, I have at least two options for that:

  1. Using an Application Gateway with WAF in front of an Azure Web App
  2. Using Azure Front Door with WAF in front of an Azure Web App

Both options suffer from the same basic problem. The web application is still public and can be directly accessed using it’s URL (appname. azurewebsites.net).

I know that I can restrict access to the web apps by IP addresses but in a complex setup, with one web calling another and so on, I would like first to have inter web apps traffic not going over internet and second, a more elegant solution to restrict access to the web apps themselves, something like as in the diagram below:

Secure Azure web apps with priovate endpoint integration and Application Gateway
Secure Azure Web Application with Private Endpoint Integration

In preview, Azure now has the “Private endpoint connection” functionality, which allows the creation of a private endpoint for a web application. This means that once created, the web application is no longer accessible from Internet but only from Azure networking resources (VNET, subnets, and so on).

Also, traffic from the web app is directed over Azure Private Link, the private endpoint being assigned an IP address from the VNET to which the web app is integrated to and so there no traffic over Internet. More than this, if you have an Express Route or VPN connected to your on premises resources (such as a database) then traffic between Azure web application and on premises resources will go trough Private Link and Express Route or VPN. Advantages:

  • The web app can be secured, by eliminating public exposure
  • Secure traffic flow between web application and on premises resources, over VPN or Express Route
  • Avoid data exfiltration from VNET

Private Endpoint created is used only for the incoming traffic to your web application. Outgoing traffic will not use this Private Endpoint, but the VNET integration feature.

Note: The VNet integration feature cannot use the same subnet as Private Endpoint, this is a limitation of the VNet integration feature.

Ok, I can secure the web application by not allowing any public traffic to it, but I still want it to be Internet accessible and protected by WAF. In this scenario, you simply put an external facing Application Gateway in front of the web application, as in the diagram above and the web application can accept traffic from Internet, traffic which is filtered by Application Gateway WAF.

If the web app needs to be accessible from other Azure VNETs or on premises networks then, instead of a public facing Application Gateway, you can put an internal facing one, with the same results (web app can also be accessed internally, from other VNETs using VNET peering).

This Private Endpoint feature I find especially useful when I have more than one web app, which are called one by the other. Instead of setting IP restrictions to each web app (and making sure that IP from the calling web app is whitelisted by the called one), I can integrate them all with private endpoint, so making sure that traffic from one to another is allowed (because they are usually on the same VNET) and having all public traffic denied. And in front of the entry point web app I can put an Application Gateway with WAF to be able to securely access it from Internet.

Note: Using an Azure Front Door instead of a public facing Application Gateway will not do the trick. Web app will still reject traffic coming from Front Door.

Setting up Azure Private Endpoint integration is quite simple:

  • Assuming there is already a VNET and the corresponding subnets created, first step is to integrate the web application with a VNET and a subnet.
  • As highlighted above, you will need a different subnet for the Private Endpoint than the one you have integrated the web app with.
  • Create the private endpoint and from that moment on, incoming traffic will be restricted to only Azure as source traffic. Incoming traffic will go trough the Private Endpoint and outgoing traffic will go trough the VNET integration subnet.
  • Once cretaed the Private Endpoint, DNS provided by Azure will cease to work and a Private DNS Zone will have to be created. Microsoft has details on it, here. Basically, a private DNS zone with the name of privatelink.azurewebsites.net will have to be created and registered with the VNET in which the Private Endpoint has been created

Once created the Private Endpoint, then you can proceed with an Application Gateway creation and web app will be secured.

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